Ilene Kristen

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Ilene Kristen
Ilene Kristen 2014.jpg
Kristen in 2014
Ilene Schatz

(1952-07-30) July 30, 1952 (age 68)
Years active1971 - present

Ilene Kristen (born Ilene Schatz on July 30, 1952) is an American actress, singer, songwriter, cabaret performer, and one-time cinema owner. She is best known for her role as Delia Ryan in the ABC soap opera Ryan's Hope (1975–1979, 1982–1983, 1986–1989) and her Emmy-nominated performances as Roxy Balsom on One Life to Live (2001–2012).

Life and career[edit]

Ilene Kristen was born Ilene Schatz in Brooklyn, New York. [1] She is the daughter of Arthur Schatz of Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Myrna Levin of Boro Park, Brooklyn. Her father was a hairdresser who owned a series of beauty parlors across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Palm Beach, Florida. She has a younger sister, Karen Schatz. Ilene lived in Brooklyn until the age of 13. She then moved to Forest Hills, Queens and lived there for two years. In 1968, she moved to Manhattan’s Upper West Side on West 76th Street. She attended PS 217 in Brooklyn, Russell Sage Junior High School in Queens, and Professional Children's School in Manhattan. Upon graduating high school, she went to Finch College where she majored in Drama and minored in Art History.

She first studied dance under Sara Felcher—and, later, under Alwin Nikolais, Jojo Smith, Matt Mattox, Luigi, and Jaime Rogers (one of the Sharks in West Side Story). Her early inspirations were the dancer Bambi Lynn and Sondra Lee, whose performance as Tiger Lily in Jerome Robbins’s Peter Pan left the young Kristen mesmerized. Kristen was inspired to someday become a professional actor when she saw the Off-Broadway show The Fantasticks. She later studied acting under the celebrated acting coach Jack Waltzer.

Her first television appearance was in 1961 on bandleader Ted Steele’s Dance Party, based in Newark, New Jersey. Her first professional job was on NBC's The Bell Telephone Hour as a dancer when she was 14 years old. She was brought on board by the show's choreographer Matt Mattox. Kristen was a dancer in the ensemble of the 1967 musical Henry, Sweet Henry, based upon The World of Henry Orient. This was the first of several collaborations with the choreographer Michael Bennett, with whom she later worked on the television show Let Us Entertain You (starring Robert Morse) and the show Pinocchio (with Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits).

In her senior year of professional children’s school, she was on the road with a comedy revue, The Six New Happenings. The revue toured in Dallas and Houston. They were booked in the largest room at the Sahara Hotel in Lake Tahoe. But once the Sahara realized that most of the cast was under-aged, had them kicked out, replaced by Johnny Carson.[2]

She was set to replace the lead actress in the show Steambath, but the show was closed before Kristen got to take over the role. Its producer Dick Scanga felt bad for Kristen, so he offered her a job in his producing office. She ended up working odd jobs on major Broadway productions: catering the opening-night party of the show Lenny (which later became the 1974 film by Bob Fosse) and gold-leafing in Robin Wagner’s scenery department for Jesus Christ Superstar. She made her screen debut in the female lead role in the 1971 comedy film Preacherman.

Her big break came when she auditioned for the role of Patty Simcox in the original Broadway production of Grease (1972), in which she starred for two years.

In 1975, she auditioned for and landed the role of Delia Ryan in the ABC daytime soap opera Ryan’s Hope. She worked on the show until 1979, when she moved to California. In Los Angeles, she appeared in film Why Would I Lie? starring Treat Williams. She played Winona, a prostitute, in The Lady in Red (her scene was with Christopher Lloyd), then did an episode of Family.

In 1982, she did a stint on One Life to Live as Georgina Whitman. She appeared in the comedy revue Strange Behavior (1983-84), which led to her being considered for a role on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. She also starred in Charles Strouse’s and Warren Leight’s Mayor, the musical based on Ed Koch’s memoir of the same name. She played Leona Helmsley, the “Queen of Mean,” among other characters.[3]

In 1986, after starring in Moss Hart’s Light Up the Sky, Kristen was asked to return to Ryan’s Hope. Kristen, always adept with comedy, says that her last four years at Ryan’s Hope were happy ones, as the writers gave her a lot of funny material to work with. During this period (1986-90), Kristen toured around the club circuits, performing with rock bands and jazz musicians at Mikell's in the Upper West Side. She did another off-Broadway show, Cowboy, a musical tribute to the life of the painter Charlie “Kid” Russell.

During the final three years of Ryan’s Hope, Kristen worked at a homeless shelter, the Prince George. Through the Children's Aid Society, she served as the kids’ introduction to the arts and movies. A group of these children later appeared on several episodes of Ryan’s Hope.

From 1990-1991, she starred in Loving, portraying Norma Gilpin, a dees-dems-doze broad from Brooklyn. She was coupled with the Tony Award-winning actor and director Walter Bobbie, who had originated the role of Roger in the Broadway production of Grease alongside Kristen in 1972. After that stint, Kristen did three off-Broadway productions: All That Glitters, Trust, and The Gig at the Goodspeed. She was also Madeleine Thompson, an alcoholic wannabe socialite, on Another World.

In the late 1990s, Kristen served as the co-artistic director and literary manager for Musical Theatre Works, alongside Gordon Greenberg. She came out to California to serve as one of the producers for the film Angels with Angles, starring Frank Gorshin and Rodney Dangerfield.

After returning to New York City in 2001, she was approached for the role of the gambling, beer-guzzling and always-inappropriate hairdresser Roxy Balsom on One Life to Live. She was asked the day before the events of September 11, 2001.[4][5] At that point in time, she had begun to question the importance of acting; she’d always seen performance as a healing art, and felt that the kind of character that she wanted to create should be entertaining, vivacious, and funny—because people needed it.[4][5] She ended up playing Roxy Balsom for ten years. Kristen was nominated for two consecutive Daytime Emmy Awards in 2004 and 2005 in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category for her role as Roxy in One Life to Live.[6]

After One Life to Live was off the air, she featured on General Hospital as Delia, her character from Ryan’s Hope, between 2013 and 2015. Kristen guest-starred in the number of television shows, including Law & Order, The Sopranos, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Unforgettable.[7] In the fall of 2013, she appeared on General Hospital reprising her old role of Delia Ryan from Ryan's Hope who was revealed to be Ava Jerome's natural mother, and made periodic appearances as the storyline dictated.[8]

Kristen is a supporter of the emerging digital series genre and has appeared on the Daytime Emmy-winning series The Bay and Pride: The Series. In 2018, she played Dolly Faye in Mélange. The pilot featured Morgan Fairchild and was written and produced by Tom D'Angora.

Personal life[edit]

Kristen currently resides in Manhattan with director Gary Donatelli. She has been a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre since 1984 and she is on their Board of Directors.


Throughout the 1990s, she was a regular performer with her band at the Triad Theatre.

In 2015, Kristen released her first album, I’m Not Done With U Yet!, produced by Scott Yahney and self-penned with various co-writers. It is available on Amazon and iTunes.

As a songwriter, Ilene has penned album cuts for teenage phenom Kaitlyn Lusk and jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb, as well as produced for the label Tuxedo Records.

Jean Renoir Cinema[edit]

In 1977, Kristen founded the Jean Renoir Cinema with Ray Blanco, a young Cuban anti-Castro emigré, and Nancy Newell, one of the first women ever admitted to the Projectionists Guild.[9] Through Blanco’s distribution company, Bauer International (later Liberty Films), the Renoir saw through the first U.S. theatrical distributions of Wim Wenders’s early German features (including Kings of the Road and Alice in the Cities), as well as films by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Alexander Kluge, Gregory Nava’s The Confessions of Amans, and Martha Coolidge’s Not a Pretty Picture. The Jean Renoir also presented the first American screenings of films from Luis Buñuel’s Mexican period, including Illusion Travels by Streetcar, Daughter of Deceit, and El Bruto.[10] The Renoir also mounted one of the first significant film festivals devoted to Cuban cinema in the United States.[11]

In the opening weekend, Blanco and Kristen screened films by its namesake director Jean Renoir: Toni, La Marseillaise, and La Bête Humaine. The lobby featured a framed personal letter from Renoir, which gave Kristen and Blanco permission to use his name for the theater.

The Renoir remained open until the end of 1977 due to plumbing and landlord problems.

During this time, Kristen produced a film, The Aftermath, starring Karen Allen.


Year Title Role Notes
1971 Preacherman Mary Lou
1979 The Lady in Red Wynona
1979 Night-Flowers Krishna Woman
1980 Family Lotus Episode: "Such a Fine Line"
1980 Why Would I Lie? Waitress
1982 One Life to Live Georgina Whitman Recurring role
1985 Desperately Seeking Susan Party Guest
1987 The Shaman Helen
1975–1979, 1982–1983, 1986–1989 Ryan's Hope Delia Ryan Series regular
Nominated - Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Comic Performance by an Actress: Daytime (1988)
Nominated - Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Villainess: Daytime (1989)
1990–1991 Loving Norma Gilpin Series regular
1994 Law & Order Sandra Krane Episode: "Blue Bamboo"
1995 Another World Madeline Thompson Series regular
1999 Vivid Susan
2000 The Sopranos Smoker Episode: "House Arrest"
2001 Third Watch Flynn Episode: "Walking Wounded"
2001–2012 One Life to Live Roxy Balsom Series regular (2001-2004), Recurring (2004-2012)
Nominated - Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2004-2005)
Nominated - Soap Opera Digest Award for Favorite Return (2003)
2005 Tinsel Town Attorney
2005 The Signs of the Cross Mrs. Coyne
2007 Mattie Fresno and the Holoflux Universe Liz
2007 The Black Donnellys Claire Episode: "The World Will Break Your Heart"
2007 Knock Knock Sexy Librarian
2008 Manhattanites Marilyn Marsden
2011 Hunting Season Mrs. Klein
2012 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Evelyn Higgins Episode: "Father's Shadow"
2013 Unforgettable Naomi McKinnon Episode: "Line Up or Shut Up"
2013 American Hunger Sydney Fisher Short film
2013–2015 General Hospital Delia Reid Ryan Recurring role
2013–2016 Pride: The Series Eleanor Brixton Recurring role


  1. ^ "Ilene Kristen 411". Soap Opera Digest. Archived from the original on 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  2. ^ "FLASHBACK: Ilene Kristen - 1977: The No. 1 villainess of TV soaps". Us Magazine. Retrieved 2019-09-06.
  3. ^ "About OLTL: About the Actors | Ilene Kristen | One Life to Live @". SoapCentral. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ "Ilene Kristen 411". Soap Opera Digest. Archived from the original on 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  7. ^ Jillian Bowe (2013-08-27). "Ilene Kristen Becomes 'Unforgettable'". Daytime Confidential. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  8. ^ Luke Kerr (2014-01-21). "Ilene Kristen Checks Back Into General Hospital". Daytime Confidential. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  9. ^ Anna Quindlen (1977-03-18). "Renoir Cinema Opens Without Illusions". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-09-06.
  10. ^ John Pierson. "Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of American Independent Cinema". Retrieved 2019-09-06.
  11. ^ "Jean Renoir Cinema—A Cinema Treasures Thread". Retrieved 2019-09-06.

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